(Energy winners story updated for closing prices, Gulfport Energy news) NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- It's about time for Easter egg hunting, but a bigger hunt is getting underway for precious oil and gas assets located offshore in the outer continental shelf of the U.S.

A new era of U.S. offshore oil exploration began on Wednesday, and offshore drilling stocks rallied .

Offshore drilling stocks continued their rally on Thursday. ENSCO International ( ESV) was leading returns on Thursday, up 4.8%. Ensco's two-day gain on Wednesday and Thursday had added just under $3 to its stock price, to $46.91 at the close on Thursday.

Diamond Offshore Drilling ( DO) was up 2.5% on Thursday, to $91.01. Diamond's two-day share price gain was $4.50 above the share price it was trading at before Department of the Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and President Obama declared the outer continental shelf of the U.S. back in the oil and gas exploration business.

Transocean ( RIG), with the hardest-to-beat ticker symbol among offshore oil drillers, was up close to 3% on Thursday, to $88.77. Transocean's two-day gain was above just under $4 a share.

In fact, the biggest pop of all among oil and gas exploration stocks on Thursday was unrelated to the price of oil rising above $85, or the news from Washington D.C. Gulfport Energy ( GPOR) shares spiked 20% on speculation that its stake in a Canadian oil sands company could fetch a high value in a future initial public offering.

If you liked this article you might like

Transocean Takes $1.4 Billion Charge to Retire Six Ultra-Deepwater Floaters

Transocean Stock Sinks Despite Goldman Upgrade

These Stocks Are Ready to Reverse Course

Now You're Hearing Apple Roar: Market Recon

Apple Rally Could Boost Dow to 22,000 - 5 Things You Must Know Before the Market Opens